A reader writes:
I work for a software company in their customer/technical support department. One of our customers was not happy with the way I handled an issue and contacted their account executive to complain. What the customer said was to the effect that she did not want me working on any of her future support issues (the customer was angry because a phone message I took for someone else wasn't returned, and that I didn't do enough to ensure it be returned, despite sending that person an email).
The account executive emailed the director of my department indicating that customers were becoming unhappy with the way my department was handling customer issues. Her email included the comment that a customer specifically did not want me working on her issues anymore. Rather than speak with me about this problem or compose an email to alert our whole team that our customers were unhappy with our performance, my department director proceeded to forward this email to my entire department, plus a few employees outside of our department (about 50 people total).
After getting this email, I was shocked, embarrassed, and angered. I couldn't believe that I would be singled out like this. I walked over to my department director to find out what was going on. I asked what I had been doing wrong (the email singled me out but there were few specifics about what I had/hadn't done) and what I could do to improve. He looked at the email he sent out, and realized THAT HE HADN'T EVEN READ THE WHOLE THING BEFORE FORWARDING IT. He had no idea that my name was in the last paragraph of the email he just sent to every single one of my coworkers. He apologized with "Dude, I'm sorry, my bad" and kind of shook his head at himself. I then stumbled for words and said something like, "well I'll talk to the account executive to see what I can do to improve" and I went back to my desk. I spoke with the account executive right afterward and asked what had happened and she still seemed a bit angry with me and my whole department.
My immediate supervisor (team lead, not the dept. director) then came to me and apologized. He told me how I hadn't really been in the wrong and we discussed what our team could do to improve our processes and eliminate these types of complaints, which we get often and are trying to fix. He apologized again after the exchange.
Although my immediate supervisor handled it really well and he understood that I was probably very angry and embarrassed, I am still angry at the department director. I can't believe that he could be so careless as to possibly cause irreparable damage to my reputation and future at the company with one keystroke. I am also angry that the account executive took the customer's word at face value and then contacted the department director with a specific complaint about me without ever asking me what really happened.
What should I do? My first inclination is to arrange a meeting with the account executive and my department director so that I can tell them that I don't think this isn't the best way to handle situations like this. Should I ask for my department director and/or the account executive to send out a mass apology? Should I get their supervisors involved? I don't feel like I stood up for myself properly and that I didn't receive proper justice.
"Proper justice" is a weird concept to use here. This isn't a jury trial, it's a group of humans who make mistakes sometimes and hopefully do their best to fix them.
Your supervisor has made it clear he knows you weren't at fault, and the director apologized to you, so he apparently does too.
You work in a group that deals with customer support, so they're all well aware that customers tend to blame whoever they're talking to for whatever problem they're having, regardless of whether that person has anything to do with it or not. If they deal with customer relations, they've been on the receiving end of plenty of complaints from disgruntled customers themselves. I really doubt anyone is thinking much of the one that went to you.
However, if you want to set the record straight to your group, send out a follow-up email and say, "By the way, I wouldn't want anyone to think I don't take complaints seriously, but as (director's name) and (manager's name) now know, in this case the customer was upset because of something unrelated to my interactions with her."
That's it. Done.
If you insist on having a formal meeting about this or go to your director's boss to complain, you might get another apology, but you'll do far more harm to your reputation, by coming across as naive and high-maintenance. Learn to safeguard your reputation on your own (such as with the email I suggested above, if you think it's necessary); don't become known as a pain in the ass.
And yes, I know you're thinking of this in terms of "justice." But if you want everything in the work world to be perfectly just, you are going to be angry and disappointed over and over again.
If it becomes a pattern, address the pattern. But otherwise? This is your boss' boss. He made a mistake. Let it go.